Bord Bia launches campaign to boost beef sales in Italy

Bord Bia launched its new trade communications campaign for Irish beef in the Italian market at Tuttofood in Milan, Italy, this week.

Tuttofood is Europe’s third largest food trade fair, where many of Ireland’s top meat companies are represented in the Origin Green pavilion. 100,000 visitors are expected to attend this year’s fair.

Following research begun by Bord Bia’s ‘Thinking House’ research centre into Italian consumer behaviour, and subsequent work on consumer trends relating to animal welfare and sustainability, the campaign was established.

The aim of the strategy, according to Bord Bia, is to convince food buyers that in purchasing Irish beef they can respond to the demands of their customers, who seek “sustainably-produced, quality beef from certified production systems that respect the environment and animal welfare”.

The campaign aims to familiarise more Italian meat buyers with Irish beef production than previous initiatives and will highlight aspects that particularly resonate with their customers such as the landscape, farming practices, traceability and the Origin Green programme. Additionally, the strategy will draw on the “positive attitude” of Italian chefs in the Chefs’ Irish Beef Club to its qualities.

Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia, was attending Tuttofood and commented on the campaign. She said: “Italian consumers are increasingly choosing Irish beef even though their overall consumption of red meat is falling. They are eating less beef but opting for premium cuts and enjoying it as a guilty pleasure following a period of economic austerity.

Our research tells us that while their first choice is Italian beef they are prepared to shift allegiance if the quality and price is right and 22% are willing to pay more where respect of animal welfare is certified.

Following on from this, McCarthy added: “We are already responding to their demand for high-quality cuts with exports growing by 4% in 2016 to reach €160m. It is now our fourth biggest market and we are targeting it as a diversification destination to offset negative impacts of Brexit.

Our priority now is to convince more buyers and consumers that they can enjoy the taste of Irish beef in the knowledge that it is produced to the highest standards of quality, safety and sustainability through our Origin Green programme.

The advertising campaign is in a story-telling format with six advertisements, reinforced by press releases, underlining the positive aspects of the product, landscape and farming, sustainability, chefs, quality and traceability.

“The theme of the campaign is freedom, focusing on the stress-free rearing of our beef cattle on family farms respecting the landscape and the environment. This in turn allows the consumer the freedom to choose Irish beef when shopping or eating out and when sharing a meal at home,” McCarthy explained.

Italy is Europe’s largest importer of beef, importing around 413,000t every year. With about 20kg per capita, Italy also has the second-highest beef consumption rate in Europe.

Overall, Irish food exports to Italy were valued at €287m in 2016, making it a very significant market for Irish agriculture.

As well as increases in beef exports, beverage exports rose by 29%, while seafood jumped by 32% and sheep by 12%, which combined to compensate for the decline in dairy exports.